The Ombudsman’s Office speaks of a case of ‘violation of rights’ of 450 workers in a foreign company
The Ombudsman’s Office revealed on Monday what it considers a serious case of “modern slavery” that affects at least 450 workers and their families, who live in deplorable conditions in plantations under the ownership of a company with Japanese capital.
In a report national human rights institution realized serious violations dozens of families, the vast African descent majority who live and work in agricultural plantations of abaca, a similar banana plant whose stem is home to a very strong fiber and listed in the industrial field. Since he learned about the case on October 16 from the affected people themselves, who until Monday are associated and represent 450 workers, the Ombudsman carried out three verification missions in the provinces of Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas and Los Ríos.
In them their officials noted “the constant violation of human rights, especially the serious conditions in which they live and work within the haciendas of the company, which has caused a widespread impoverishment.” The Ombudsman, Gina Benavides, appealed to the authorities and considered the case as “one of the most serious that we have had to verify.” “Dozens of families live and work for decades and do so in conditions that are not compatible with human dignity,” said Benavides.
She stressed that they reside in “old camps, dreary, humid, without drinking water, electricity, or environmental sanitation.” And that men, women, children and seniors, “whose life is restricted to extract the fiber of abaca” do so to deliver in exclusivity to the company the material they extract and process.
People who do not work directly with the crop take care of the rest of the community in tasks such as preparing food, washing clothes and caring for children, seniors and the sick. The photographs they presented in an appearance before the press show the precarious living conditions of the families, with open-air latrines, barracks with individual rooms where the workers are crowded or facilities in a calamitous state.
Francisco Hurtado, deputy human rights and nature of the Ombudsman, said that about the company indicated, weighed 31 labor violations and the recommendation of the closure and suspension of haciendas. “What we are deeply concerned about in this case is that it is not strictly a situation of labor rights, but of unworthy life, of conditions that could be configured according to international standards such as servitude of the glebe,” he said.
He pointed out that the company has not signed labor contracts with any of the employees, that they are not affiliated with the social security and violates all the norms of risk prevention, work accidents and occupational health.
In fact, many abacaleros have suffered amputations and cuts both in the harvesting phase of the stem due to the machete blows, and with the machinery to break the fiber. The firm publicly denies that they are their workers, despite the fact that they live on lands run by the company and operate with two figures that are illegal in Ecuador, the Ombudsman added.
The first involves contracting civilians to tenants who also live and work within the haciendas in the same conditions of precariousness, and the second involves the purchase of tons of fiber in exchange for money that the mayor distributes among the workers.
José Hernández, one of these intermediaries explained that despite winning $ 640 every five weeks, at the end of all payments to workers and the company is left on average USD 49. The Ombudsman has also found child labor and violation of rights as the health, education or identity.
Thus, the records made in 18 camps have reported at least 70 people who are not listed in the Civil Registry, of which 58 are minors. Hurtado urged the intervention of several authorities in the case such as the Ministries of Labor, Agriculture, Education, Health, Social Inclusion, the State Attorney General’s Office, the Internal Revenue System (SRI), or the Secretariat of Political Administration. (I)